Thaddeus Baklinski

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Bishop Pearse Lacey remembered as ‘hero’ for pro-life cause

Thaddeus Baklinski

TORONTO, April 4, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The Most Reverend Pearse Lacey, auxiliary bishop emeritus of Toronto, died on the evening of April 2, 2014, at the age of 97.

A strong supporter of the pro-life movement and authentic Catholic education in Canada, Bishop Lacey was actively involved in the National March for Life from its earliest years.

"Bishop Lacey was a hero in the Canadian Catholic Church," said John-Henry Westen, editor-in-chief of LifeSiteNews. "He was the only bishop to say the Mass for the March for Life in the early years of the event," Westen recalled.

Bishop Lacey was born in Toronto on November 26, 1916. He was ordained a priest on May 23, 1943, in St. Michael's Cathedral, Toronto, by then-Archbishop James C. McGuigan, who was later named a cardinal.

Lacey was appointed a Prelate of Honour with the title of Monsignor on September 13, 1967.

In his desire to contribute to Catholic education, Monsignor Lacey served as a trustee of the Metropolitan Separate School Board from 1972 to 1974, and served as Chaplain and Director of the Christian Family Movement.

On May 3, 1979, Monsignor Lacey was named Auxiliary Bishop of Toronto, assisting then Cardinal G. Emmett Carter.

Ordained a bishop on June 21, 1979 in St. Michael's Cathedral, Bishop Lacey was appointed vicar for the western region of the Archdiocese of Toronto as well as vicar for priests.

After reaching the age of 75, he offered his resignation to the Holy Father, which was accepted on May 31, 1993, and retired in his native Toronto.

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However, his retirement did not lessen his work for life and family. 

In 2011 he lent his support to the more than 2,600 Catholic parents and ratepayers who were opposing the homosexuality-promoting equity and inclusive education (EIE) strategy that was being pushed into schools both public and Catholic by the Liberal provincial government.

In a letter to LifeSiteNews outlining his support for the parents, Bishop Lacey wrote: "Recently, while preaching at one of our local parishes, I was moved to witness to the growing parental concern on the subject of the Equity policy in our schools.”

"The parents at a recent meeting strongly expressed their concern about a gay agenda embedded in the policy now being considered by the trustees,” he continued. “In my opinion, parents and Catholic electors are justified in objecting to the government mandate.”

Referring to parental requests for explicit amendments designed to eliminate the ability of educators to give instructions to students contradicting Catholic teaching on homosexuality, the bishop wrote: “We equally support the right of the parents to seek through their trustees, policy amendments protecting the faith and morals of children in our schools.”

In his later years, Bishop Lacey continued a tradition of service, presiding at sacramental celebrations up until late 2013 when his health would no longer permit such involvement.

Jim Hughes, national president of Campaign Life Coalition, reflected on Bishop Lacey's courage and his immense contribution to the culture of life.

"I had known him for over 50 years," Hughes said.

"He was a solid Catholic leader, one of the few in the Catholic hierarchy that you could point to as someone with courage," he added, recalling that Lacey "personally apologized to me at a Lift Jesus Higher Rally for not being the bishop he should have been in the early years."

Hughes noted that Bishop Lacey "led the clergy march against the Morgentaler abortuary with tape over his mouth. He led many pro-life events."

"I visited him on numerous occasions on a wide variety of topics affecting us. He gave us wise counsel and often deferred to the wisdom of Monsignor Vincent Foy," Hughes said, adding with a wistful smile, "I regularly brought him single malt scotch and bought him a copy of Sister Act with Whoopi Goldberg. He enjoyed it."

Cardinal Thomas Collins, archbishop of Toronto, expressed his sympathy on behalf of Catholics throughout the archdiocese.

“The Catholic community mourns the loss of Bishop Lacey," Collins said in a press release

"He served as a faithful, joyful and pastoral shepherd for more than 70 years. While he retired from his official duties 20 years ago, he was a kind and welcome presence throughout our archdiocese at many events until recent months. We give thanks for his great witness and offer our condolences to his loved ones.”

Visitation will take place on Sunday, April 6, from 2:00 to 4:00 pm and 7:00 to 9:00 pm, with prayers during visitation at 8:00 pm at R.S. Kane Funeral Home – 6150 Yonge Street (south of Steeles Ave.) Toronto.

The Funeral Mass will be on Monday, April 7, at 11:00 am at Blessed Trinity Church, 3220 Bayview Ave. (north of Finch Ave.) Toronto. Cardinal Thomas Collins will preside.

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